Portraying the American Rose: The Evolution of Peruvian Saints’ Images Between Lima and Rome

Attributed to Angelino Medoro, Postumous portrait of Saint Rose of Lima, early 17th century (possibly 1617), 26 x15 cm, oil on canvas, Lima, Convento Máximo de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, also called Convento de Santo Domingo. Photo © Raphaèle Preisinger

This subproject investigates the role of images in three successful canonization campaigns of saints related to the Viceroyalty of Peru. The focus is primarily on Santa Rosa de Lima (1586-1617), the first canonized saint of the Americas. A comparative approach is chosen, which allows to also examine the processes of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo (1538-1606) and San Francisco Solano (1549-1610). Through these three cases, the subproject examines the colonial society that for more than six decades witnessed and shaped the sainthood of these figures. In the Viceroyalty of Peru, the period between 1538 and 1617 was one marked by amplified evangelization at the hands of missionaries, such as Solano, whose presence and teachings marked the boundaries of Catholicism, which faced resistance by Andean peoples.

Lima (Los Reyes) was the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru that governed a large part of South America. It became the setting for the construction of an ideal government, both temporal and spiritual. The three saints were active in Lima in the century after the city was founded. They embodied the period’s conceptions of sanctity and religious virtue. Saint Rose of Lima was a pious lay woman who joined the Order of Saint Dominic as a tertiary. She led a severe and secluded life filled with mysticism and penance. Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo was the second Archbishop of Lima and organizer of the Peruvian Church. He visited his entire diocese several times and baptized and confirmed an estimated half a million people, among them Saint Rose. San Francisco Solano was a Franciscan missionary and preacher. It is traditionally said that he had the “gift of tongues”, and due to his miracles, he was called the “wonder-worker of the New World”.

Their causes of beatification and subsequent canonization reflect a dynamic process of negotiation between Lima and Rome over locally formulated saintly personae. This negotiation culminated in acceptance of these three into the ranks of the saints by the Roman Curia. Accordingly, this project examines the iconographical construction of sanctity in relation to the three Limeños as it was subject to changes and continuities brought about by the negotiation of sanctity between the viceregal capital and the Eternal City.

Researcher: Lucía Querejazu Escobari